The biggest thing on the minds of many remains the possibility of a recession and the overall inflation nationwide. Medcalfe thinks it probably won’t look a lot different in 2024 as it did in 2023. If anything, there may be less of a chance of a recession.
“I think the chances of recession have probably slipped a little. I think there’s less chance of a recession,” said Medcalfe. “Inflation is certainly still a concern. It’s running at 3.2%, which sounds kind of low, but because of the amount of inflation, we’ve had prices about 20% higher than two years ago, and it’s still a concern and still eating into people’s wages.”
He indicated, looking at Google Trends and what people are searching, inflation is still a pretty high concern.
As for the Augusta region, Medcalfe pointed out that Columbia County continues to see a population increase and will likely have the largest population in the area by the end of the decade on current trends. As you would expect, as the population grows, so too does the number of businesses.
Looking at the different sectors of employment in the region, he said things haven’t really changed. The only sectors that have seen more than a 2% change in the share of total employment over the last 20 years are education and health services.
Medcalfe also pointed out that the manufacturing industry has seen a sizable increase since 2014. He said it was the same time the Starbucks manufacturing facility arrived in South Augusta but didn’t say that was the exact reason for the increase, just a point of reference for the manufacturing industry increase ever since.
“Manufacturing has showed a large increase over the last 10 years or so, past post-COVID as well. So now manufacturing employment in the local area is at the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Medcalfe said.
Some research that Hull College is undertaking is the intersection of health care and business. He said it’s important to the economy in our region since Richmond, McDuffie, and Burke counties all rank toward the bottom of county health rankings in Georgia.
“One of the things we are looking at here in the business school and in the new School of Public Health is what are the factors that influence the population’s health but aren’t clinical? There’s a lot of things that impact people’s health. There’s socio-economic status, there’s the environment they live in, there’s education, there’s health behavior and all this kind of stuff.
“About 25% of the research out of Hull College is now looking at health maps because it’s important. Not just for the health of the population, but it then impacts the economy because we have a labor shortage and how much of that labor shortage is actually because some people can’t work,” said Medcalfe.